I accidentally deleted all my email this weekend.
I think I know what happened. I’m such a goddamned minimalist that the lifestyle caught up with me. And when I say lifestyle, I mean neurosis.
Anything that sits in my garage for six month without being used is unnecessary, I reason. Same with my closets: If I haven’t worn it in six months, I don’t need it. Off to Goodwill with all of it. Unless it contains a phone number I won’t remember or my nephew’s voice, I delete all voicemail after listening to the messages.
I say this as curse, not compliment. I now regret deleting voicemails from people that I met on the job. The best was from Ted Nugent, who called me “Scottily Wottily,” easily the best nickname ever assigned me. Sure beats “Scotty Potty.”
I am so anal about keeping the memory free on my phone that I use bulk delete on junk email, which I don’t allow to collect for more than a day.
But today, I bulk deleted my entire inbox. It didn’t contain many missives; perhaps 100. But I kept them around because they were funny, contained a nice picture or contained a link to a possible future column.
Now they were all gone.
It’s funny, how instantaneous moments move in slow motion. Like when you realized you sent that email to the wrong recipient. Or let your anger rule your tongue. Or reflexively said ‘Love you’ to your boss before hanging up (sorry, Bob).
So it was with The Vanishing. A few key strokes, punched from rote memory, laid waste to everything. I stared at the screen for a moment, stupefied and speechless. You’d think Google would have come up with a confirmation message before massacring. Something like, Are You Sure You Want to Do That, Dumbass?
When I finally came to, I realized that all was not lost. All I need do was rummage through the Trash file in my email and restore the necessary ones. Hell, I regularly had to sort through actual garbage thanks to Teddy, who had a fondness for chewing on important mail like Skoal. This would be a headache, but nothing more: I had 24 hours before it was automatically deleted forever.
So I went to the shower, turned on the boombox, and immersed to relax before the digital digging. Then Traffic’s The Low Spark of High Heeled wafted:
If you had just a minute to breathe and they granted you one final wish
Would you ask for something like another chance?
Or something similar as this? Don’t worry too much
It’ll happen to you as sure as your sorrows are joys
As I listened to Steve Winwood’s ethereal voice, I tried to answer his questions. What did matter? What was critical there, worth the foraging or fret?
I had no answer. And realized: Is there anyone you could not reach if you wanted to? Is there any name or number you could not track down in your phone calls, your texts, or, more importantly, with a modicum of effort?
That answer was easy: No. Like so much in my life, I had let technology do exercises that would probably be best left flexed in my own hands. I can’t remember the last time I read a map. Or checked the time on my wristwatch (though I own two dozen). I love to trumpet that I own no social media accounts. But what makes me different from some millennial Tweet-head if I too live by the inbox?
So I let the day pass, the trash empty, and my inbox go wherever they go to die. Probably the Florida Keys (did you see the morons who stayed?). And truthfully, it was a bit of a charge to bid my e-belongings farewell.
Now I have five emails. I really should delete a few.
I understand this wouldn’t be a reasonable request for most people, whose inboxes flow like East Coast levies. Their lives hinge on the data within.
So I’m not requesting it. I’m commanding it.
Delete your inbox! Don’t look back, think twice or take the red pill! Head for higher ground with only your loved ones in clutch. You are moored to the dock; but what then when the dock is set adrift?
Set yourself adrift first.